Mind Over Mountain

Some of you may have heard, nearly 3 weeks ago, I raced in Vegas (Henderson) at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships.  The race itself was great, but more remarkable than the way I raced physically was my mental and emotional preparation and race day execution.
As you may have guessed, yes, that is the segue into my non-traditional race report.
I'm assuming most of you really aren't terribly interested in a play-by-play of race day... my splits can be found at ironman.com.
Where was I...to set the stage for this story, lets rewind to 1 year ago at this race.
Basically I spent the few days before the race in 2012 incredibly anxious and uncertain of what I was doing there and how to quantify my expectations.  Not unlike big races I had done in the past, I was secretly hoping I could find a way to temper my expectations by sabotaging my efforts.  Usually that meant at some point, giving up on my efforts, accepting doubt as truth.  In fortuitous fashion a mechanical error (on my part) thwarted my best effort at a podium spot by setting both my bike and run splits 20 minutes off my goal (40 minutes total).  Post race, I spent the next month or so sulking around, and doing some, for lack of better description, honest soul searching.  I needed to figure out if I still had the passion to keep racing triathlon.  Beyond having that passion, did I possess the strength necessary to forge past the doubt and fear that had put the smack down on my progress and potential as a competitive triathlete.  After what felt like an eternity w/n my own head (about a week), there was.no question where my passion was and not only that, where my mind and heart needed to be in order to make my pursuit a reality.
Fast forward a few months and I had not only made a complete shift mentally, but I had also quit my "corporate job", started a new career centered more around fitness and triathlon and moved to a much more supportive community in Wenatchee.  If you have never done something like this, I highly recommend it.  It will push you in ways you didn't think were possible and you will learn more about your inner strength and perseverance than you ever realized was there.  Over the past 9 months, I have been through many ups and downs...so high I never thought I would come down and so low I was ready to throw in the towel...and every where between.  EVERY SINGLE DAY I recommitted to my goals and vision, which didn't make it easier as much as a reminder of where I started and how far I had indeed come.
This quote saw me through a lot:
"A ship is safe in the harbor, but that's not what ships are for".
My intent with this life is to do exactly that.  Live in every moment, pursuing what brings me joy and surrounding myself with people that make my heart smile.
For me, it has not always been easy to forge through fear and doubt in order to live true to my intent.  I have always been a master of training, physically pushing myself beyond what I thought was within my realm of capability.  But, I broke a LOT more than anyone realizes.

One of my great sources of inspiration has been from my fellow Wattie Ink teammates.  Stories of triumph, over fears, injuries, obstacles, etc.  These stories are awesome reminders of the fragility of life, vulnerability and validity that I am not alone on this journey.  Not only that, but my family, friends and Wenatchee community have been beyond supportive and up-lifting. My gratitude is beyond words!

Once racing started this season, it was clear to me how much impact these life changes had on my thought life.  Racing was no longer daunting, it was joyful.  Don't get me wrong, I've always loved racing, but it caused me copious amounts and anxiety, both leading up to and during an event.
It's no secret, that it has taken WORK to get to this point.  Daily reminders and mental skills exercises, cutting out what causes anxiety and spending my time solely with people and activities that would build me up.  I knew what I had to do, deep down I was a skeptical that I could change and that IF I did change, would it bring the results I hoped for.

Back to the present.  Though I had a few minor issues, my racing this season was an incredible success.  I trusted in my preparation and my ability to perform, and I used an ever so simple, yet effective mantra, "I believe I can".  EVERY time I started to doubt, have anxiety or feel my HR creep up a little too high, I repeated "I believe I can" over and over and over.  Without thinking about it, my HR would ease, shoulders relaxed and my head would pick up...yes, it REALLY does work!
Finally, here we are at IM 70.3 World Championships.  This was the true test of how far I had come.  I refused to let myself slip into my former mental state pre-race, by spending a little time relaxing and a lot of time hanging out with family and Watties to keep my mind occupied, as far away from over analyzing as possible.  Come race morning I had actually arrived relatively calm, despite the fact it was pouring down rain.  I did my due diligence, making sure everything was in place, nutrition dialed and bike was in working order.  There was one small hiccup in nutrition, but I just rolled with it, figuring panic would do me more harm than good.
Because racing with a clear and confident state of mind is so new to me, I had no idea what to expect, and could not wait to find out.  Seriously.
Once the gun went off, I found myself in a not-so-great position in the water, but I just found a rhythm and tried to stick with it, staying as relaxed as possible to conserve energy for the bulk of the race yet to come.  Maybe I conserved a bit too much.  Either way, I felt great coming out of the water and couldn't wait to attack the bike ride.  The pouring rain made for an interesting twist, but I'm from the PNW after-all, this was right in my wheel house!  As usual, the first 45 miles flew by, remaining right on my goal. Suddenly I had a thought that what-if I completely fall apart on the run and all this hard work would be for not..."I believe I can, I believe I can, I believe I can..." Whew, crisis averted.  KEEP PUSHING!
As I headed out on the run, I consciously took it SLOW.  Once I found my legs, I just tried to keep a rhythm.  All was looking up until excruciating pain started radiating from my left knee all the way up to my hip.  Oh man, just keep GOING!  The rest of the run went like this: BREATHE. RELAX. WATTIE - YAY! SMILE.  repeat.
I knew physically, and on paper, I was capable of a great result.  When I crossed the finish line, I had no idea where I stood and was not about to stand around waiting for results.  What I wanted was to be grateful for how far I had come and relax with my Mom for a minute.
About 30 minutes post-race, the results came to me and I was absolutely floored.  My first emotion was relief.  I had actually not let myself down, and had made my support team proud!  WHAT?!?!
Looking back, the experience is still very surreal.

I am grateful for pushing through the hard times and not giving up on myself not only in Vegas, but over the past year.  However, I have to give credit where it's due.  It would not have been possible without the following: my whole family (Mom, Jeff, Dad, Brother,  uncles Steve & Bill Smith, Grandma & Mike Pettus, and my grandma Barkley who used to chase down JackRabbits in the fields of Kansas), Wattie Ink, Power Bar, K-Swiss, BlueSeventy, FuelBelt, ISM, Specialized, Arlberg Sports, SET Coaching (Jason Jablonski), Gold's Gym of Wenatchee Valley, Polar, Adventure Wenatchee, Gale Fruit Company, my loving and uber supportive friends, the inspiring athletes I coach, and my incredibly encouraging and supportive Wenatchee community.